"I’m just telling a story"
by Boyd van Hoeij
- Cineuropa spoke with the director of the 2007 Palme d'Or winner at the Transylvania International Film Festival, where the film had its Romanian premiere
Cineuropa: Where would you position your film?
Cristian Mungiu: I am not consciously thinking I am working on an art film. I am not a very big fan of these niche films that will only be seen by very few people in a small room. I try to make my films for the people and try to be honest and do it in my own language. I always try to make a film in which, from the beginning, you don’t know what is going to happen.
How do you see the success of your film in relation to the growing recent attention towards Romanian cinema?
I am sure that I owe this success not only to the film – though I am sure they like the film a lot as well – but it was prepared by previous successes. When a Romanian film was selected in Cannes in 2001, it felt like a national victory. At the time it would have been impossible to even think of having a film in the Official Competition.
Why is this boom in Romanian cinema happening now?
That’s not an easy question. Something that matters is the competition between the people: everybody tries to make a better film than the person before him. You have to keep up a certain standard because you are going to be compared with yourself but also with the others at the same time. There are some other things; the financing system works better than ten years before. They give a chance to more people every year to make a first film. Then there is real preoccupation with people in cinema and filmmakers to have their own production houses; this is how they make sure that all the money that they raise is going to be for the film and they are going to have absolute control over production and can do everything the way they want.
How was the film financed?
First of all, we got development money from the Hubert Bals Fund, I think in September, and this was very helpful. Not only because of the amount itself, but also later because they helped us organise a screening in Rotterdam for sales agents, which started a wonderful rumour about the film in Rotterdam and later in Berlin. We also submitted the film to the funding scheme of the CNC [the National Council of Cinematography] but we wanted to shoot in winter, so we just shot the film using money from my production company, hoping to actually get this money from the CNC later on.
You have described the abortion in the film as an act of protest...
The people at the time were seeing the interdiction on having an abortion as an intrusion of the system on their personal freedom, so they would consider that doing this was a part of fighting back [against] the system. But if you ask me, there is a lot of selfishness in this kind of thinking, because it stopped you from seeing the real problem. But this is the way people wanted to relate to it then and because of the time that we lived in, no one was paying much attention to any moral consequences. It was a time when you didn’t have time to think about things; you just had to survive and not get caught.
Would you say it is a moralising story?
It is not a moralising story because that would mean that my point of view is in the story and I hope that it is not; I’m just telling a story. People can see some moral in it. In a strange way, the story is also about what a lack of freedom does to people and a story about how abusing the lack of freedom is also wrong, because after abortions were forbidden in Communist times, people abused this freedom in the early nineties. We had like one million abortions in the first year after the fall of Communism. We didn’t know how to behave. They thought: if you are allowed by law to do this, then it is okay. But you have to think about the kind of freedom that you are given.